Three weeks into the Biden administration, the lack of a phone call between President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is gaining attention.
Secretary of State Tony Blinken played down the notion that Biden — who has already spoken to 10 heads of state — is snubbing the Israeli premier. In an interview with CNN on Sunday, Blinken said that the two leaders will “have occasion to speak in the near future.” Netanyahu echoed the same sentiment during a press conference in Jerusalem, saying he “has no doubt” Biden will reach out.
But some supporters of Netanyahu aren’t satisfied. Danny Danon, chair of the World Likud and former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, took to Twitter on Wednesday, posting the number for the prime minister, to remind Biden of the traditional phone call.
But it appears that the number Danon publicized was the general phone number of the prime minister’s office, but is no longer in use. This reporter’s attempt to directly contact Netanyahu with the number Danon provided was met with a busy dial tone.
A new contact number appears on the prime minister’s website.
The tweet reminded political observers of the time that James Baker gave out President Bush’s White House telephone number as a rebuke to the Israeli government for its hardline approach to peace talks with the Palestinians. ”I have to tell you that everybody over there should know that the telephone number is 1-202-456-1414,” the former Secretary of State said during a congressional hearing in June of 1990. ”When you’re serious about peace, call us.”
Former President Donald Trump used a similar tactic during the 2016 Republican presidential primary. The real estate tycoon-turned politician gave out Sen. Lindsey Graham’s cell phone number during a campaign rally after the South Carolina senator called Trump a “jackass.”
Netanyahu doesn’t own a personal cell phone.
Israeli reporters and commentators wondered whether Danon was serving Netanyahu’s interest by trying to cause tension with the new administration. Tal Schneider, a reporter for Times of Israel, suggested that Danon may have intended to actually embarrass the prime minister over an internal dispute. Danon, who now lives in Israel after five years in New York, was hoping to return to the Knesset as he seeks a way back into the Likud party’s upper ranks. Danon was recently elected to his former post as chairman of World Likud, an international wing of the Likud party. His reinstatement came after a political maneuver against Netanyahu’s favorite candidate for the position, Knesset Member Miki Zohar. On Tuesday, following a Likud court ruling, Danon agreed to apologize and a new election date was set for Feb 22, in which Danon will be the only candidate running for chair.
Danny Danon tweets Netanyahu’s phone number to Biden